Archive for the ‘HBO’ Category

HBO’s Los Espookys will make you want to be a horror technician, too

June 14th, 2019

AUSTIN, Tex.—"When was the last time you ever saw a show like that?" Drunk History's Derek Waters asked the crowd after a world premiere screening at last week's ATX TV Festival. "I'm honored to moderate this panel because what you just saw is groundbreaking."

To be clear, "never" might be the answer to Waters' question. And this panel did not center on Drunk History; it didn't even feature another Comedy Central show. Instead, the host sat onstage alongside an all-Latinx main cast and head-writers group from what might be HBO's next great comedy: a half-hour, Spanish-language, horror-adjacent series debuting tonight (11pm ET) called Los Espookys.

Horror how-to

At the most basic-level, Los Espookys follows four friends who form a business in an undisclosed Latin American country where occasional supernatural occurrences are an unacknowledged, normal part of daily life. After the friends successfully execute a spooky-themed Quinceañera for one of their younger sisters, wise Uncle Tico (Fred Armisen of SNL, Portlandia) offhandedly says their work looks so good, so full of passion that they should pursue it as a side hustle. (Wise Uncle Tico would know; he works as a valet.)

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A disillusioned Aaron Paul longs for someone “real” in Westworld S3 trailer

May 20th, 2019

HBO released the first teaser for Westworld season 3 right before last night's Game of Thrones finale.

HBO took advantage of the record number of viewers tuning in to the Game of Thrones finale last night to release the first teaser for season three of Westworld. The teaser is deliberately vague on details, but it looks like we're in for a dystopian near-future scenario set not in the original theme park but in the real outside world.

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

If you're new to the series, the titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. It's essentially Live Action Role Play (LARP-ing) combined with a choose-your-own-adventure experience. The park is populated with a "cast" of very human-looking androids, called hosts, who follow a bunch of intertwining narratives, rebooting the same narrative every day. The park's well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts—rape, pillage, torture, murder—and they do so more often than not, because they don't see the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, HBO, Television, Trailers, westworld, westworld season 3 | Comments (0)

Here is our super spoiler-y review of the Game of Thrones series finale

May 20th, 2019
The eight and final season of <em>Game of Thrones</em> proved to be the most polarizing and controversial yet.

Enlarge / The eight and final season of Game of Thrones proved to be the most polarizing and controversial yet. (credit: HBO)

The series finale of Game of Thrones defied pretty much all the predictions as to who would emerge triumphant and sit on the Iron Throne, in what has proved to be the most polarizing and controversial season yet. (Over a million fans have even signed a petition demanding that HBO re-shoot the entire final season, which—c'mon, people. That's not how any of this works. Save it for the fanfic.) Personally, I thought the series as a whole provided a gripping, trope-bashing narrative arc that was imperfectly executed in the crucial last two seasons. Showrunners David Benioff and David B. Weiss got the plane on the ground in the end—but it wasn't a pretty landing, and there's bound to be a lot of grumbling from dissatisfied customers. Ramsey Bolton did warn us: "If you were hoping for a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."

(WARNING: It's impossible to write a meaningful wrap-up analysis of this incredibly influential series without going into specifics, So there are MAJOR spoilers below, especially for the final season and last two episodes.)

Let's get the controversial plot turn from last week out of the way up front, since it drove much of what transpired in the finale, and pretty much encapsulates the best and worst aspects of this final season. In the penultimate episode, "The Bells," Daenerys and Drogon, her surviving dragon, make short work of Cersei's forces to conquer King's Landing. (That showy Golden Company? Not so tough after all.)  As the bells ring to signal surrender, we see a flurry of conflicting emotions play across Dany's face before hardening into steely resolve. She proceeds not to just incinerate the Red Keep where Cersei has been watching the battle from afar—which is what everyone expected—but to rain down dragon fire on all the innocent civilians who Cersei brought in to serve as a human shield. Her decision lit up Twitter and launched a thousand hot takes, as disappointed fans howled in rage at seeing the Mother of Dragons break bad.

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Posted in Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones season 8, Gaming & Culture, HBO, TV reviews | Comments (0)

HBO drops first teaser for its upcoming Watchmen series

May 8th, 2019

HBO's new Watchmen series.

The clock is ticking faster and faster as the world escalates toward destruction in the first teaser for Watchmen, HBO's forthcoming new miniseries based on the hugely popular graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons.

(Some spoilers below for 2009 film and Watchmen and Doomsday Clock comics.)

Watchmen is one of the most critically acclaimed comic book series, widely viewed as a harbinger of the genre reaching full maturity due to its dark vision of flawed superheroes in an alternate timeline who go into hiding when public sentiment turns against them. Set in 1985, the series opens with the murder of a man named Edward Blake, who turns out to be a superhero known as the Comedian. Some former superhero compatriots team up to discover who has begun offing their colleagues, culminating in a confrontation with entrepreneur Adrian Veidt (formerly the superhero known as Ozymandias). Veidt orchestrates a massacre of half of New York City's population by a giant alien squid in hopes that it will unite warring nations against a common foe.

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HBO’s new Chernobyl mini-series shows how good science is undermined by secrecy

May 6th, 2019

Chernobyl (2019) | Official Trailer | HBO

When reactor four at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded in April 1986 outside of Pripyat, Ukraine, the whole world watched in horror as tidbits of information leaked out of the tightly controlled Soviet Union. But conflicting official and scientific reports made it difficult to know the extent of the disaster.

The piecemeal accounts of how Chernobyl unfolded have made the disaster ripe for over-dramatization and under-dramatization, depending on the storyteller's politics and attitudes toward nuclear energy. But HBO's new five-part mini-series Chernobyl stands out: it has the benefit of an extremely well-researched script that isn't afraid to make tasteful modifications to the story to keep the viewer from getting bored and drowning in names.

In short, Chernobyl, which debuts on HBO tonight at 9pm ET, is worth the watch.

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Posted in Chernobyl, Chernobyl disaster, culture, Energy, Gaming & Culture, HBO, mini-series, science | Comments (0)

Winter is here: humans rally as Night King advances on GoT S8 debut episode

April 15th, 2019
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brings Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) home to meet the family at Winterfell.

Enlarge / Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brings Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) home to meet the family at Winterfell. (credit: HBO)

Winter is here! The first episode of the hotly anticipated final season of HBO's Game of Thrones aired Sunday night, and it proved a solid, if not scintillating showing. There were reunions galore, a bit of sniping and tension, a nifty new opening credits sequence, and the dragons (the true stars at this point) got plenty of screen time.

(Spoilers for first seven seasons; mild spoilers for last night's episode.)

Based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO's Game of Thrones long ago outstripped the novels in terms of plot, although the author had some early input in shaping the TV series' broad narrative arc. We've seen plenty of sex, blood, and horrifying death over the course of seven seasons, and now it's time for the end game. This being George R.R. Martin, there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

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Posted in Entertainment, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones season 8, Gaming & Culture, HBO, reviews, Television, television review | Comments (0)

Who had the most merciful death on Game of Thrones? Science has an answer

April 13th, 2019
You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks.

Enlarge / You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks. (credit: HBO)

Warning: This story contained some mild spoilers from the first six seasons of Game of Thrones.

The world of Game of Thrones may be fictional, but that doesn't stop its fans from heatedly arguing about all the possible underlying science, because nerd-gassing about one's favorite science fiction is a time-honored tradition. Just how hot is dragon's breath? Is there a real-world equivalent of wildfire? What's the best and worst way to die? And how fast would Gendry have to run back to the wall to send a raven to King's Landing requesting help?

These and other scintillating topics are discussed in a forthcoming book by physicist (and uber-fan) Rebecca Thompson, Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones. The book comes out in October from MIT Press, but as we gear up for the premiere of the final season Sunday night, Thompson graciously gave us a sneak preview into some of the burning science questions she investigated.

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Posted in Biology, books, chemistry, Game of Thrones, Gaming & Culture, HBO, Physics, science, Television | Comments (0)

AT&T raises DirecTV Now price—again—after promising lower post-merger bills

March 12th, 2019
An AT&T logo on the side of a building.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | ljhimages)

AT&T is reportedly raising the price of DirecTV Now by $10 a month and notifying current subscribers that they will pay the new, higher price starting in April.

DirecTV Now packages today cost $40 to $75 a month before add-ons such as HBO, and current customers will reportedly pay $10 a month more regardless of which package they subscribe to, making the prices $50 to $85. News reports say AT&T is also reconfiguring its channel packages for new subscribers, adding HBO to basic packages while eliminating dozens of channels that aren't part of the AT&T-owned Time Warner Inc. New customers will reportedly be able to choose from two slimmer plans costing $50 or $70 a month.

The price hike and channel reduction are happening despite AT&T promising that its acquisition of Time Warner would lower prices for customers. When the Department of Justice tried to stop the merger, AT&T told a judge in a May 2018 court filing that the merger "will enable the merged company to reduce prices."

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In a golden age of SXSW brand activations, at least Game of Thrones draws blood

March 8th, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas—The hottest ticket at South by Southwest 2019 may not involve a band or a film. Instead... it's for blood donations.

Fresh off its much hyped SXSW 2018 Westworld experience, HBO partnered up with the American Red Cross this year for "Bleed For The Throne," a blood drive held within yet another signature "immersive activation" at the festival. While people anywhere can participate in the overall Red Cross initiative, donors in Austin this week get the perk of walking through recreations of Game of Throne's King's Landing Throne Room and an exterior camp site where everyday people from Westeros await to perform and interact. According to the event press release, 80-plus actors and musicians have been hired to bring it all to life, and they're working from 100-plus pages of character script and backstory. A royal woman told us we had to listen to light inside us; a female soldier at the camp commented on the excellent mobility of our "armor"—aka, a bike helmet attached to a backpack.

If you're attending SXSW and haven't reserved a spot yet, don't bother. After a Thursday media preview, HBO PR sent out an update noting all available appointments for the weekend had been reserved within two hours of opening. On the plus side, the GoT tie-in has led to a reported 40 percent increase in new donor appointments since the campaign announcement.

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As HBO and Turner bosses quit, AT&T announces big Time Warner reorganization

March 4th, 2019
The HBO logo on a TV screen with static.

Enlarge (credit: HBO)

HBO is planning to produce 50 percent more original content this year, even as new owner AT&T reportedly plans significant layoffs across its Time Warner subsidiary.

WarnerMedia, the AT&T division created after its June 2018 acquisition of Time Warner, told Ars today that it is planning to reduce costs for "duplicative back-office functions," while increasing investment in producing content. WarnerMedia today also issued a press release announcing a reorganization that will create four business divisions "around entertainment networks, live programming, content production, and affiliate and advertising sales."

"From an HBO content perspective, and this is irrespective of today's announcement, they are already increasing and looking to increase their original content by 50 percent this year," WarnerMedia Senior VP of Corporate Communications Emile Lee told Ars.

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